Never Be Defeated Recipients
2017 Never Be Defeated Award Recipients
Billy deCicco has always been a devoted family man and an outstanding member of his community. At the age of 89, he still works, runs his own company, and shows no signs of slowing down. Billy also has a passion for cancer awareness and research. A passion that sparked in him after losing a dear friend, Brian Piccolo, to cancer at the young age of 26.
Brian Piccolo was a running back with the Chicago Bears in the 1960s. He played only four short seasons before being diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, a rare form of cancer that eventually took his life. Brian left behind his wife, Joy, and daughters Lori, Traci and Kristi. Soon after Brian’s death, Billy helped gather family, friends and NFL team mates with the goal of establishing a fund in Brian’s name. When Billy sets his mind to something, he makes it happen, and so The Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund was launched in 1970. What began as an impromptu fundraising initiative is now a thriving nonprofit organization that has raised more than $8.3 million for cancer research, including the establishment of endowed chairs at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute and Rush University Medical Center.
Over the years, Billy has dedicated an immeasurable amount of time to directing and overseeing the Piccolo Fund. He can also be credited with starting a golf outing and 5K run in Brian’s name, two very successful events. Billy somehow managed to accomplish all of this while also running his own business, coaching his children’s sports teams, and even playing on a men’s soccer league until the age of 65. With no paid employees, the Piccolo Fund relies on its terrific volunteers, and much of its success to date is thanks to Billy’s dedication and hard work.
The Gavers Community Cancer Foundation has been an incredible partner to the Piccolo Fund, committing more than $1,000,000 to support breast cancer research, much of which is raised through the annual Barndance. In his true fashion, Billy volunteers at Barndance each year, along with his family. You can probably find him at registration or handing out wristbands, and when you do, please thank him for all that he has done and continues to do for cancer research
THE IVERSON FAMILY
LYNNE | BROOKE | BROCK
Grateful for the support of the Cary community through the Brock Strong campaign and of the Harvard community through the Blue for Bart benefit, Lynne Iverson has strived for ways to give back some of the support her family has received over the last several years. This includes volunteering for the Barndance last year, coming full circle to a night when Steve sat with Lynne’s husband Bart, encouraging him to fight and to never rule out second opinions, even as he and Lynne were still shell-shocked that his cancer had come back so quickly and ferociously.
Lynne Podpora was raised in McHenry; Bart Iverson was raised in Harvard. He joined the Marines and served our country during Desert Storm. They met on a softball diamond and married in 2002. They had two children, Brooke and Brock. Diagnosed with colon cancer in July 2009, Bart battled for almost two years and was even in remission for a brief time. Bart and Lynne began to create a “Bucket List” when it became clear he would not win this battle. Sadly, Bart passed away February 27, 2011, before they could tackle any of the items on their list. Bart and Lynne’s desire to give back some of the support they’d received throughout his fight against colon cancer led to several donations. Supporting colon cancer research was important to them. The promise that some of the money raised at the benefit was Bart’s only condition in agreeing to let it go on. To that end, some of the money raised was donated in his name to colon cancer research through the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation. Proud of his service in the US Marine Corp, an honorarium was established to be awarded to graduating Harvard High School seniors who enlist in the Marines.
Lynne began life as a single mom with the support of her Harvard and Cary families. The kids kept busy through football and cheerleading, baseball and horseback riding, among many other activities. They had settled in to a new routine, and Lynne had established a new normal for her family, balancing her work with the kids’ school and activities. Eight-year old Brock came down with congestion and sore throat repeatedly, going through many rounds of antibiotics through the late fall and early winter of 2014. Following the appearance of the “red dots,” a diagnosis of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia was made in February 2015. Less than four years after losing her husband to this horrible disease, Lynne was again leading a fight. The all-too-familiar routine of tests, hospital stays, doctor visits and copious amounts of medications began all over again, only now for her, it was as mom rather than wife. They headed for Lurie Children’s Hospital to meet with an oncologist, and Brock began chemo within a few days of the diagnosis to begin a three-year treatment plan. She worked hard to convince Brock that people DO survive cancer; his only experience was with his father, and he believed he was going to die just as his father had. Brock’s had a PICC line and then a port. He, and his family, have endured many rounds of steroids. He’s lost and regrown his hair, had blood transfusions, and has had countless chemo treatments – some out-patient and some in-patient.
They are now two years in to a three-year treatment plan. Lynne’s fight and determination continues to provide as normal a life as possible for her family while living with another cancer diagnosis. Through it all, sister Brooke now 13, has remained Brock’s steadfast supporter and is sometimes the glue that holds things together. While Lynne Iverson herself is not a cancer survivor, she has survived and is surviving cancer. Twice. She refuses to let cancer defeat her or her family.
If you need to connect with Brian Loprino, look no further than the Public House of Woodstock. There, he can be found socializing with customers while making certain everything is served at its finest. When he’s not leading the talented team of Public House, or visiting with customers who often become friends, Brian may be out on the open road, savoring his love for motorcycles. More often, he’s off somewhere with his beautiful family. With his wife and business partner Kathryn, they may be traveling to Canada where their daughter Madison (18) is attending college at Brock University. And yet more often than not, Brian can be found on the sidelines watching son Hunter (16) who plays both Lacrosse and Football for St. Viator High School and on college prep travel teams. Of his many roles in life, Brian is most happy when he’s the proud father. He grew up in the Chicagoland area, yet now calls Woodstock home where he serves as an engaged community resident and businessman.
Sadly, life hasn’t always been without worry or loss for Brian. At the influential age of 22, Brian lost his mother to breast cancer. She was only 49. During her battle Brian’s life role was then caretaker; and he cared for his mom through to her final day. Once married
with life back on track for Brian, the ugliness of cancer returned, this time for Kathryn’s mother who was only 56 when she passed away from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While Kathryn returned home to Canada to care for her mother, Brian’s lead role was dad as he kept their young family in routine. Years later, cancer happened still again when Kathryn’s father was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer. Thankfully, that battle plan included surgery for Kathryn’s father and resulted in a cure for his condition.
Many married couples have shared experiences that make them stronger. Thankfully, few include losing mothers to cancer. While Brian and Kathryn were able to support one another during those challenging times, they never imagined the reality of facing cancer head on as they did when Brian was diagnosed over a year ago. One day Kathryn told Brian she had noticed he wasn’t himself. He had been expressing feelings of fatigue, frustration with struggles to lose weight, and various other symptoms that just didn’t add up to Brian’s “normal.” He agreed and scheduled a doctor’s appointment with a full blood panel. Thank goodness Brian performed the role of good listener, because the result of this health review was Stage 3 aggressive prostate cancer. Within moments of the news, Brian said to Kathryn, “I will beat this!” Weeks that followed were filled with multiple doctor visits, numerous consultations, and some big decision-making. Ultimately, those decisions lead Brian and his family to the doors of Rush University Medical Center. With the kind gesture of a supportive call from friends at Gaver’s Community Cancer Foundation, the journey to cure Brian’s body of this disease began. A robotic-assisted da Vinci surgery was performed. Following that, early pathology reports confirmed that the cancer had spread outside the prostate, so radiation was Brian’s next step. With 40 treatments of radiation, Brian felt fatigued and overwhelmed, yet he remained strong. If asked, he was fighting to be cured – free of cancer. Brian’s strength could be witnessed when just one day out of the hospital, determined and strong-willed he attended Hunter’s football game. Brian could do this because he believed he was given a second chance at life, more time with his beloved family, and his mind was set on winning. This personal battle was the most important role of his life. With four months passed and two doctors’ visits since Brian’s last radiation treatment, all counts have been rated zero ~ a winning score in this case! Brian will continue with bi-yearly check-ups for the next four years.
This story didn’t just end with the news of clear tests. A new story actually began when Brian declared his will to heal his body from cancer and commit himself to a healthier life. He earned his second chance. With his victory, Brian has truly embraced the complete embodiment of health, committed to a healthier lifestyle with successful weight loss and overall good health practices. A corresponding dedication to his own health and wellness is to share his experience with others. Brian is a promoter for “getting
checked,” and can often be heard advising others to make that important appointment when asked what can be done to support his efforts. He shares his new found understanding of the importance of listening to your body, asking the right questions, and addressing concerns. Brian and Kathryn feel so blessed and thankful that their story has a happy ending. Because of their journey, they are determined to continue in this most important life role – raising awareness; supporting fundraisers; service to community, family and friends – to ride our world of cancer, permanently.
313 days ago my mom did not have Cancer. She had just driven 16 hours from Illinois to Colorado to help me begin a new adventure. Adventurous actually describes my mom extremely well. Last May she went to Hawaii and hiked 87 miles there. Not only did she hike; she kayaked, climbed waterfalls, cliff jumped, and dove out of an airplane. My mom is full of adventure and I know that nothing will ever stand in her way.
Upon returning from Hawaii, my mom found a lump in her left breast. She went in for an exam and mammogram in which nothing showed up. The lump continued to grow and so an ultrasound was done in July. Again, nothing found. She continued to feel uncomfortable and so did her gynecologist. She was advised to go and have a biopsy done just to triple check and make sure everything was really ok. On September 6th, 2016 my mom began her scariest adventure. One that none of us ever thought she would have to go through. She was diagnosed with stage 2 Breast Cancer. She had just moved me out to Colorado and my brother Ryan was back at UW Stout for school. She wasn’t alone, but I can imagine it felt something like that. She had her husband, Randy, her brother Mike, and an amazing support system to help her because Ryan and I weren’t physically there for everything. She also had an angel looking down on her from heaven to help her persevere.
With some help from some very close friends, my mom ended up at RUSH with a wonderful team of doctors. Rush is amazing in the fact that everything they do there is a team decision. This helped immensely with stress and anxiety. After her initial visit everything seemed to happen so fast. She began Chemotherapy in less than 3 weeks and it would continue for 4 months. Thank goodness for good friends who would go get her cotton candy blizzards when the Woodstock DQ was closed! Then she would go on to have a double mastectomy in February. This was a scary obstacle and furthered her journey when we found out the chemotherapy had not completely killed all of the cancerous cells. The cells were removed in surgery, but we then knew she would need radiation. Her cancer had progressed to Stage 3. Radiation was a 6 week process, which was not like going to the tanning bed at all. My mom is now a badass and has four tattoos because of it. She ended radiation on June 5th and is looking forward to getting back to normal after some final surgery in November. She has already been hiking and kayaking again. She is fearlessly moving on to her next adventure.
For those of you who know my mom, you know how much she has gone through and lost in her life. However, today is not about what she’s lost, today is about what she has gained and the strength that she has shown over not only the past year, but throughout her life. Kelly Redemske is a selfless and compassionate mom, wife, sister, daughter and friend. She has 3 kids who all love and care for her very much. She has always dedicated her time to her kids and put them before herself. My mom continues to put others first everyday. Whether it’s looking after her own mom, driving others to appointments, or visiting relatives in the nursing home, she devotes so much of her time to caring for others. She has been a part of the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation since 2005 and is now the Treasurer of this great organization. She whole-heartedly believes in everything Gavers is about, especially getting checked.
~Written by Kelly’s daughter Jenna.
2016 Never Be Defeated Award Recipients
Sherri Sahs Valencic
Unlike many, Sherri’s cancer story started when most of us were joy riding in cars, going to dances, sneaking beers, attending parties and generally living the carefree life of a teenager. At age 16 Sherri was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Sherri was a state swimmer, a cheer-leader and a leader among her peers. She faced her cancer quietly with her mother beside her. She faced radiation and chemotherapy with grace and strength beyond her years. She kicked cancer’s butt at age 16! She continued with her full life of school and friends until at age 19 the beast reared its ugly head again.
Over the years Sherri had a hip replaced, a full hysterectomy, multiple cancers removed from her skin, and ultimately at age 46 open heart surgery to bypass the arteries that had been damaged by the radiation. Through all these health issues Sherri exhibited an unsurpassed positive attitude and always found a way to continue to work, travel and live life to its fullest.
In April of 2016 Sherri went for her routine mammogram at which time they found early stage cancer in her left breast. With her history, it was a no brainer to schedule the double mastectomy. Little did Sherri know that this would be no ordinary surgical procedure. Due to the fact that she had radiation and the scarring from her open heart surgery, the skin would not heal. She spent many days at Northwestern Women’s Hospital in Chicago, suffering a great deal of pain and enduring leech therapy. Yes I said leech! They used them to circulate the blood to the healing skin. But that is not where her story has ended. Sherri has had to have 2 more surgical procedures, her last being June 2nd. Sherri is fun loving, generous and above all Sherri is a fighter and has been given this award for her courageous 40 year battle against cancer.
Cheryl and Gary Rabine
Cheryl Rabine has always been a selfless focused leader, her compassion for others has led her to dedicating her time to many Faith, Family, Business and Philanthropic causes. Over the past 30 years Cheryl has put in time serving in the Rabine Group companies in many different aspects from helping with office management to managing properties. In her 20’s she was a hair stylist who worked in a salon until kids came along and she transitioned to cutting hair at home. In every role Cheryl has ever taken on in Family, Business and Philanthropy she has always worked hard to understand the role and was never happy until she could excel.
On Friday, June 3rd Cheryl had a MRI after experiencing headaches and dizziness. At 1pm on the following Monday Cheryl was called and informed of a mass in her right front lobe. Within 18 hours on Tuesday morning Cheryl was rushed into emergency brain surgery because of major swelling and bleeding. A fast recovery looked imminent as Cheryl was sitting up in the hospital chair 20 hours after surgery but at 30 hours later things began going wrong again. Swelling and bleeding began again and less than 2 days later in the first hour of Thursday morning Cheryl was rushed into the operating room again for what was looked upon by our surgeon as a very risky but vital surgery. 210 minutes later the surgeon came to the waiting room with a look of relief. He said because of the great health Cheryl had kept herself in, her vitals were super strong throughout a tough surgery and she did great. Today armed with great Faith, Family and Friends, Cheryl is preparing to defeat an evil enemy, a brain cancer called Anaplastic Oligodenroglioma, just as she has done her whole life in anything she sets out to do, she will excel at this as well.